Swing Discussion Boards > Is West Coast Swing taught backwards?

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by plugger, Jul 5, 2010.

  1. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    Mario would point out that the old timers stopped dancing because the swing music was replaced by contemporary. Skippy raises a similar point from time to time.

    Of course, exactly the same performance/showmanship/etc issues show up for swing music as for not swing music.

    Another war lost long ago.
  2. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Well, I don't know. All the socials I attend, there is a mix of old and new style swing music. And you can always seek out events where one or the other is emphasized as you prefer. John Festa is another proponent of more traditional-style swing, and he runs an excellent event called Hudson Swing Affair. I enjoyed attending that last year, and plan to go again this year.

    I just don't see all of this as a "war" to be "won" or "lost". I enjoy being open to different things.
  3. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    I totally agree. If somebody only wants to dance WCS to a specific type of music, go for it. Even if I ended up dancing it to Salsa music, it really shouldn't matter to anyone but my partner and I.

    Plus, it is totally OK not to like a dance form. If JohnEm doesn't like either the dance or the music, that is a perfect reason to pick a different dance. There sure are a bunch to choose from.
  4. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

  5. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    And one of those other forms of swing dance - Lindy - has, I would say, stuck closer to its roots. I mean, people still dance to the original music and do the original moves.

    Interestingly, I think Lindy has avoided changing precisely because the original form of it (as danced by Frankie Manning et. al.) was already young, fast, exciting and allowed flashy moves. So there's built-in appeal to new generations of dancers.
  6. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    Yea, it seems like Lindy is so integral with that specific type of swing music that it really can not move to any other music. It is always fun being at a dance where the music is from before my parent's where even born or where just kids.

    JohnEm would like those dances. They always have a dance like a Westie competition :D
  7. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    I'm not sure that theory works - judging from the US compilation CD, Westie got slower as the dancers got better, not faster.

    Of course, the video also cuts off at 2001 - just as Jordan, Tatiana, Benji, and Heidi arrive.
  8. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    Yes the performance & showmanship issues show up elsewhere,
    my argument is that they don't belong on the social dancefloor.
    Performance is expansive, visual, selfish even in the context
    of being dominating of floor space and atmosphere. It says
    "look at me".

    But let's not talk of "war" in dancing. That's so inappropriate.

    I've already posted on this so sorry to repeat as Jenny isn't correct,
    except that of course it is danced to its original music.

    Lindy changed in a similar way as WCS, evolving in this case through
    sheer weight of numbers simplifying the steps, to match simpler music,
    evolving into the various other jives. Lindy and swing had disappeared
    from public consciousness. Then along came people who realised that
    swing music and Lindy were special and deserved revival.

    If only all this were true. Tango shows from Argentina were commercial
    entertainment ventures just as any other staged show. People in the US
    and Europe wanted to dance what they saw and the stage dancers willingly
    availed themselves of the earning potential. It still happens. My first
    tango experience was with a fantasia choreographer/teacher. And he's
    still teaching but his style is exceptionally greedy of floor space and
    rather incompatible with social dancing.

    Experience shows that shows change the dance. The shows over dramatise
    the highlights of the dance for visual effect and then people want to do it.
    Many never make it to the social floor either because they never have
    a enough confidence or because they are intimidated by the perceived
    proficiency of those already dancing in such an ostentatious manner.

    You may be different and know the difference.
    I certainly know the difference and am only interested
    in the enjoyment of the dance.

    Designed! I think not. Evolved by its dancers more like and now changed
    under the influence of so-called professionals with dance influences from
    other genres.

    Ok I'm out of here now. Perhaps I shall go back to swing dancing
    where the joy is. Maybe I can experiment dancing Lindy slower
    using WCS techniques and find something closer to its roots.
  9. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    No place more evident ,than Salsa...
  10. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    The Savoy dancers Manning, Norma Miller, Al Minns, and ???? referred to their dance as Lindy Hop. I seem to remember Manning writing that someone went to Europe for a couple of years, and when they returned there style was rather old fashioned, or something that indicated that the Savoy dancrs had changed their style quite a bit in the intervening period.
    Same thing happened when Manning was out of the scene for a few? years and dropped in to see what was going on.

    If anyone has a cleared memeory on this, please correct my memory.

    As professional entertainers, they were looking for new stuff all the time.

    Out in the rest of the country (in general) there were many other styles of swing. "There are hundreds of regional dances of the Jitterbug type. Each section of the country seems to have a variation of its own."

    Early on (1937) there was at least on book teaching swing dancing.
    Jitterbugs, who were dancing any of a number of dances, etc, got most of the attention in the mass media of the times ie Time, Life, etc.

    In LA in the 40s smooth lindy and smooth swing were both taught.
    Note the absence of the hop.

    "lindy" aka New Yorker, Eastern Swing, etc, (many are listed) was/were included in books consistently during the 50s, 60s 70s and 80s. Some of the books were written by college and university teachers/professors. No doubt thousands and thousands of young people were exposed to varying styles of "swing" through the decades. Books were also written by "chain studio" owners, of course, and those seem to raise the hackles of people who have so far written about history of swing.

    The teaching of various swing dances at colleges and universities has gone largely unremarked upon by people who have written for web sites.
    (But not Lindy Hop as danced by the Savoy dancers.)

    Saturday night fever came out in 1977, and Urban Cowboy in 1980.
    There was a Disco Swing ya know. And a new "Western Swing" came out of Texas.

    Al Minns joined the Cameron Dance Center in New York and began a swing program there in 1981. Frankie Manning joined the Center in 1985.

    People like Skippy Blair were there teaching West Coast Swing the whole time, but not in a static format.

    Um, don't think I had a point here??? other than WCS has been around for long time now. I HAVE added some of the "original moves" that aren't danced anymore to my vocabulary. I've often thought it would be fun/interestig to recreate the dance as described in the the old texts.
  11. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    So, I have been thinking for quite some time about the parallels, or lack of them, between Argentines and "Argentine Tango" and Americans and swing, and how we feel about the diversity of the dance.

    Not sure I want to go further with that right now though.
  12. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    While I'm on a role...

    The Village Voice ‑ Apr 2, 1958
    Professor Marshall Stearns , a Villager whose scholarly pursuits include jazz and Chaucer, will direct a conference of jazz critics from all over the nation at the Newport Jazz Festival in July.”
    “They will talk about the history of jazz and the popular dance, aided by two ex-kings of the Savoy Ballroom, Leon James and Al Minns.” Page 8

    February 15, 1969
    The Talk of the Town
    Laying Down Some Leather [ABSTRACT]

    Talk interview with Leon James and Al Minns, 2 middle aged Negro jazz dancers who will present a history of jazz dance at Town Hall on March 1. Both men sprang from the great Savoy Ballroom in Harlem where they would dance the Lindy Hop for 8 or 9 hours¼
    by James Stevenson
    James Stevenson, The Talk of the Town, “Laying Down Some Leather,” The New Yorker, February 15, 1969, p. 29
  13. Flat Shoes

    Flat Shoes New Member

    I agree with your first paragraph, but disagree with the second. There is still a strong preference for the original music in the sense that Lindy is best danced to music that really swings.

    But swing music has evolved. And the dance is constantly evolving and changing. There is a swinging musical core that is kept, that "defines" Lindy, but there is still a lot of variation around this.

    Yes and no. You can very well dance Lindy to some (not all) of the more modern types of jazz/swing, and even some hip hop. But there is a requirement that the music swings.

    You can do the moves and patterns and the improvisation to non-swinging music as well. But then some of the feeling is lost. And it's debatable whether it can be called Lindy any more.

    It's really difficult to define Lindy. It's a very fluid and a bit subjective thing. The above is my opinion and not "the truth" (TM)
  14. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    I'm sure you're more familiar than I am...by no means am I any kind of expert on Lindy. Simply saying that, in general terms, it seems to be a fun, upbeat, energetic dance by nature, and therefore has some built-in appeal to younger generations.

    The weird thing about WCS is that its original music was also somewhat fast swing, then in the past couple decades got slower, and now there's a lot of faster music again, except it's more often uptempo pop/R&B/hip-hop, rather than faster swing music. I guess that's because, if people want a dance with fast swing-style music, they'll pick Lindy? I mean, uptempo WCS still looks different than that to me, but might not to a beginner. More likely they would make their choice based on what kind of music they want to dance to.
  15. Flat Shoes

    Flat Shoes New Member

    I think both WCS and Lindy are dances that are constantly changing, since it's not regulated in any official way. Also I think what people start dancing is mostly coincidences and what happens to be danced locally. I mean, it takes some time to learn what you like and don't like about dancing.

    I started with Lindy simply because my girl friend at that time danced Lindy. At the university where I started dancing Boogie Woogie (a advanced swing form popular in Europe) was bigger. But I had no idea about that, and no idea about the differences between the dances either.
  16. megeliz

    megeliz Member

    I would definitely agree with this. I started WCS because I was chasing a guy who danced WCS, and didn't know the difference between WCS and Lindy anyways (I was pretty surprised when I walked into my first dance and heard hip hop being played!).
  17. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Yes, when I tell non-dancers that WCS is often danced to non-swing music, they can't believe it. Personally I like the fact that WCS allows me to partner dance to current pop/R&B/hip-hop hit songs. I like the more traditional WCS music as well. I just really enjoy having that variety of songs and moods to dance to. I realize purists might not agree with me and that's okay.
  18. megeliz

    megeliz Member

    The look of bewilderment on their faces is pretty priceless, I've gotta say, when I try to explain WCS to non-dancers...I always hope that I either have a wi-fi connection for my ipod or a video on my camera so I can just SHOW them what it is!

    And completely agree about the music! I don't know how I would do listening to *one* genre of music for hours on end, multiple nights a week! And I love the fact that I can dance to the music that I already KNOW from hearing on the radio. (I also think the purists are being a little bit silly, since I've seen old routines that were danced to *gasp!* the pop hits of their time!)
  19. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    I know! Non-dancers are completely confounded by this! The funny thing is, when I show them videos, they say it looks like hustle to them. :rolleyes:
  20. megeliz

    megeliz Member

    A lot of my non-dance friends don't know enough about dance to make that connection period. I've had more than a few friends ask for clarification when I even mention Lindy (Now, what's Lindy Hop? ...it's what you typically think of when you think of swing dancing)!

    They always seem really impressed when they see videos of me though...especially the spinning side pass, for some reason. "Ooh! I really like that! Right there!" Where? Oh, the spinning side pass? Really?

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